K&N's Mike Edwards Holeshots His Way to NHRA GatorNational Pro Stock Wally

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2012 GatorNationals Pro Stock Champ Mike Edwards
2012 GatorNationals Pro Stock Champ Mike Edwards
"It was a great win for all of us and great win for our team and hopefully we can build off of it and continue on," said Mike Edwards after becoming the newly crowned GatorNationals Pro Stock Champ when he defeated a tough Greg Anderson in a 6.566 to 6.538 holeshot victory, during the rain delayed 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida.
Mike Edwards at the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida
Mike Edwards at the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA GatorNationals in Gainesville, Florida

Edwards has been waiting, not so quietly in the wings, for his first NHRA Pro Stock win of the season after making noise with a number one qualifier at the previous race on the NHRA schedule in Phoenix and hoping to carry that success into a victory. Now with the third event of the still young 2012 season upon him and an event that he had yet to add to his extensive win list, Edwards set to do battle for the GatorNationals and for the first time this season, it was from a little farther down the qualifying sheet.

Edwards and his K&N/Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac made a good opening pass of 6.556 in the right lane during Friday's first session, only to come back for the afternoon session to make his run in the troublesome left lane, shaking the tires shortly after launch which caused the former NHRA World Champ to abort the run. "We just struggled with the left lane there," he admitted. "With the setup we were trying to use, well we just weren't having much luck over there in that lane. We ran really good during the last qualifying run, so we ended up fourth, but we did struggle some in qualifying and more than we have so far all year."

When Saturday rolled around, Edwards would get to go back to the right lane and to give it his best shot in not only what many Pro Stock drivers referred to as the better lane, but the best conditions of all four sessions. But it was not to be for Edwards and his troubles continued when the car went silent not long after the green came on and he coasted to a stop halfway down the track.

Now hanging in at an uncharacteristic fourteenth spot on the ladder, Edwards made a huge move to get onto the top half of the ladder in the fourth and final session. Never to be written off, his final effort landed him in the number four spot for eliminations with a 6.506, a whopping five hundredths of a second quicker than his one and only other full qualifying pass the day before down the north central Florida drag strip.

First round Edwards would meet up with Shane Gray and set the stage for what was to come by not only putting a heck of a bulb on Gray with his .011 reaction time to Gray's .054, but also had the best reaction time of any driver the entire round. The round win would set him up for the quarter final pairing with Ron Krisher. Even though it may not be a reaction time to write home about, Edwards had a huge advantage by more than doubling Krisher on the tree. Krisher with problems down track, causing him to lift, Edwards went on to make another solid run with a 6.528, the quickest of the round.

With that, the rains came and caused NHRA officials to postpone the remainder of elimination rounds to the following day. Sunday, Monday or whatever day, Edwards was looking forward to a chance to put his K&N Pontiac in the winner's circle and take home his first ever GatorNationals win but he would need to get past Summit teammate, Ronnie Humphrey first. Waiting until the next day to finish eliminations always poses certain questions as Edwards points out. "You always wonder what the track will be like the next day when you have to wait like that. The thing is, you had two runs on it on Sunday, so you kind of had a feel for how it's going and what you need to do. So when you have to shut down for the day and come back the next morning, you are kind of skeptical of what to do or just not really sure of how to set up. It's really just like starting all over again. You just have to go with your best guess, I'd say." Call it a good guess or whatever you may, Edwards made a stout run in the semi-finals come Monday morning when again, he left first on his competitor, Ronnie Humphrey, while making his best run of eliminations, 6.521. But it was that one teeny-tiny thousandth of a second at the end of his time slip that had Edwards and his team concerned about the championship round, it cost them lane choice over Greg Anderson and his 6.520.

While the main goal in professional drag racing is getting to the stripe first, sometimes you still don't turn the win light on buy just having the lower E.T. and if anyone had been paying attention to Edwards throughout eliminations, they would have noticed that he was doing a pretty stout job on the .400 pro tree, with the better reaction time each and every round.

That would hold true for the final as well. After losing lane choice Greg Anderson and not all too happy to have to go back into the troublesome left lane, Edwards sliced the tree in two with an almost psychic .003 light to Anderson's quite late .070 and he needed it. Admitting he may have staged the car a hair little different in the final, which any changes in staging can cause a swap in reaction time and elapsed time, Edwards' car still slowed quite a bit from the round before, but with the outstanding starting line performance he took the stripe by nearly twelve feet and in doing so, denied Anderson of getting another win this season.

"When you are in the finals, well basically you just have to go for it," said K&N's Edwards. "We were real skeptic about the [left] lane anyway and we have made a lot of adjustments for the lane. We weren't really sure if we were going to run that great anyway, so we had to pull it all out and do all that we could do. We were fortunate and it turned our way. We didn't make the best run, but anytime you can win it's awesome and we'll take it. It was an ugly win, but it was a good win."

The victory would become Edwards' 34th NHRA Pro Stock national event win, his first at the GatorNationals and move him into number two in the 2012 point standings.

With his first win of the season under his belt, Edwards won't be taking his K&N/Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac home to rest until the next event, but right back out for some further testing and he will be ready for the first of two scheduled events in Las Vegas in two weeks. "There are a lot of changes that you have to make to these cars when you go from somewhere like Gainesville to Las Vegas," he pointed out. "Gear changes and a lot more. But we are all used to it and have information on how we have run it [Las Vegas] before, so it's not that big of a deal. So instead of running 6.50's and 40's, we'll be running 6.70's and 60's out there. It's just another way to race and I think it's more fun to do it that way. You have to adapt and know what to do in all those different situations and it makes it more fun and more interesting."

Every venue has its own special reason that Edwards looks forward to being there and for the next one at "The Strip" at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it's getting to see certain folks that don't get to attend every event. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Steve Williams and Greg Boutte from K&N. Steve is going to drive my car and I'm going to drive his," he joked. "And you know, we are actually going to make that happen one of these days. He really needs something like that to happen for as much as he's done for our sport, our class and for our team, I'd be all about it if he would want to do it. Steve Williams and K&N have been a real blessing to us and the support they have given our team is wonderful. That also includes the K&N Horsepower Challenge that they do for the Pro Stock class, that whole program is just phenomenal."

"Every year it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and better and better," he continued about the K&N Challenge. "Sometimes I just don't feel like we do enough to give back to them. One of these days I would love to win that deal at Norwalk. I've got close a couple of times, but I would like to seal the deal one time for sure."

"And maybe this year," he added with a smile.

With eight events left to add points to his total before the shootout in early July, Edwards is also sitting well in the 2012 K&N Horsepower Challenge standings, where he also currently sits number two and should he continue the strong performance he has shown over the first three events, still with a good shot at taking over the top spot from leader, Jason Line.

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